Editors Note: Summer is half over and Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille was found at home, relaxing and reflecting back on this past legislative year and glancing ahead to the upcoming year.
Last year began and ended with the city budget. According to the mayor, The city manager fully implemented the new budget process last year that was based on agency performance metrics and goals, Euille said. In the end that gave us a budget document that was easy to read and that clearly showed how we are spending our money and what we are getting for those dollars. I was very pleased and am certain that there will be additional refinements as we move forward.
Council, once again, set budget targets but did not meet them. The budget targets are a goal and I wish that we could have come closer to meeting them than we did but I believe we will do even better next year, Euille said. We set the targets; the city manager met them but the School Board did not. I hope that this year we can begin working with the School Board much earlier so that they can come closer this year. We are going to schedule our first budget work session with them in October, before our City Council retreat in November. The retreat is usually when we get fairly solid budget numbers and begin talking about the target for the next fiscal year.
The Virginia General Assembly finally passed a transportation funding plan. According to Euille, I really think the state should have taken more of the responsibility for funding the transportation infrastructure but giving taxing authority to the region was the second best way to go about solving our problems. The Northern Virginia Trans-portation Authority has voted to move forward with increasing taxes and fees to raise funds for regional projects and Alexandria will benefit from that.
Another regional problem is affordable housing. Un-fortunately, we are not as close to solving that problem on a regional basis, Euille said. Congress is looking at funding a National Housing Trust Fund and that would help. Our own Housing Trust Fund has been very successful and has helped us to maintain a fair amount of affordable housing in Alexandria. We would like to do more but we have to identify funding sources, Euille said.
Public housing is another issue about which council deliberated last year and which is on councils agenda when the new session begins. The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority has a number of challenges, some internal and some external, Euille said. We are working with them to develop a public housing plan for all of their properties to ensure that we maintain the current number of public housing units and see that those units are well managed and maintained. We dont need to reinvent the wheel: cities throughout the country are employing strategies in public housing that work. I met with the mayor of Philadelphia and he is willing to come to Alexandria and meet with us about how Philadelphia has dealt with public housing issues.
The mayor is excited about the opening of the new Gaylord resort at National Harbor in Prince Georges County in April of next year. We have set aside $700,000 to pay for infrastructure up-grades such as signage on King Street and to spruce up the waterfront so that we are welcoming to the visitors from National harbor, he said. If we are not prepared to take advantage of the economic opportunities that are coming with these visitors, someone else will. They have already sold one million nights in their hotels and will sell more. They are encouraging their visitors to see Alexandria and we need to be prepared for them.
Euille and most members of City Council have been silent about the Alexandria School Boards decision not to renew Superintendent Rebecca L. Perrys contract when it expires in June, 2008.
The School Board is an elected body with the responsibility for making decisions about the public school system. Our only real responsibility is to provide them with funding, Euille said.
Euille will visit two of Alexandrias sister cities, Dundee, Scotland and Helsingborg, Sweden, in August. He will return in time for the opening of the new T.C. Williams High School on Sept. 4, and the first session of City Council on Sept. 11.